Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A mini particle accelerator

19.11.2015

To build a particle accelerator the size of a shoe box – this is the goal of a research team being led by Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and Stanford University in collaboration with eight international partners. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is funding the project for the next five years with 13.5 million US dollars (approximately 12.5 million euros), around 2.44 million US dollars (approximately 2.26 million euros) of which will be allocated to FAU.

Particle accelerators are several kilometres long and costs many millions of euros; large ones cost over a billion euros. There are therefore only a small number of them available to researchers and the short time slots for experiments are allocated according to a strict schedule.


Not much larger than a one cent coin: the accelerator on a chip. With this new technology, particle accelerators – which are currently several kilometres long – could fit in a shoe box in the future.

Image: FAU/Joshua McNeur

However, the high costs and large size could be reduced in the future with the help of the new 'accelerator-on-a-chip' method – which would mean a drastic change for scientific research. 'The impact of shrinking accelerators can be compared to the evolution of computers that once occupied entire rooms and now can be worn around your wrist.

This advance means we may be able to expand particle acceleration into areas and communities that previously had no access to such resources,' explains Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff from FAU's Chair of Laser Physics, one of the project's principle investigators.

'Based on our proposed revolutionary design, this prototype could set the stage for a new generation of "tabletop" accelerators, with unanticipated discoveries in biology and materials science and potential applications in security scanning, medical therapy and X-ray imaging,' adds co-principle investigator Prof. Dr. Robert Byer from Stanford University.

An accelerator on a chip

The accelerator-on-a-chip method that the project is using is based on experiments by the two principle investigators. Prof. Hommelhoff and Prof. Byer showed independently of one another that pulses of laser light can be used to accelerate electrons. In their experiment Prof. Hommelhoff and his team used the electron beam of an electron microscope, which they directed along the side of microstructured glass at extremely close proximity.

By focusing short, intense laser pulses on the electrons through the fine glass structure from the side, they were able to accelerate the electrons. Prof. Byer and his team demonstrated the same effect in a very similar experiment using much higher-energy electrons in a special particle accelerator. This resulted in the electrons being accelerated ten times faster than in conventional accelerators. The findings from the two studies, both published in 2013 in Physical Review Letters (Hommelhoff) and Nature (Byer), could make a new compact particle accelerator possible.

New challenges

Nevertheless, showing that particles can be accelerated in an electron microchip is just the beginning. The researchers now face new challenges, such as reducing the diameter of the electron beam by a factor of 1000. This is a difficult task, as Prof. Hommelhoff explains: 'We will have to consider the following: the electrons have to be kept in a perfectly straight line. However, it is not easy to direct them. You can imagine electrons like marbles that you want to push along a straight line. This is much easier with a long ruler than if you were to try it with a highlighter – mainly because the electrons repel one another.'

Furthermore, the researchers have to find a suitable way of producing the electrons and directing them precisely. This means that the new accelerator will have to include not only a chip-based accelerating component but also components for directing and focusing the electrons – and these components do not yet exist.

Finally, the researchers will have to find the best possible design for the microchips so that when they are connected they produce a working particle accelerator in which none of the particles get lost. The accelerator microchip is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating a functioning particle accelerator. The key to success will be either to connect several microchips with different functions in series, allowing the electrons to be accelerated to high energies, or to produce all the required components on one larger microchip. The latter is the approach desired by the researchers.

According to Prof. Hommelhoff, whether the finished particle accelerator is actually the size of a shoe box, as small as a matchbox or in fact the size of a packing box is not that important. 'It is mainly about building a prototype that shows that particles accelerators can be made much smaller than they are currently,' he explains.

The project brings together internationally renowned experts in accelerator physics, laser physics, photonics, nanotechnology and nanofabrication. Alongside FAU and Stanford University, it involves three research centres – SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, USA, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchroton (DESY) in Hamburg and the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villingen, Switzerland – one company and five other universities – the University of California Los Angeles, Purdue University in Indiana, USA, the University of Hamburg, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and Technische Universität Darmstadt.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is one of the world's largest private foundations that supports scientific research and technical development, and has invested over one billion US dollars in the past. Further information about the Foundation is available at www.moore.org

Further information:
Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff
Phone: +49 9131 8527090
peter.hommelhoff@fau.de

Dr. Susanne Langer | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.fau.de/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A graphene superconductor that plays more than one tune
18.07.2019 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

nachricht Researchers put a new spin on molecular oxygen
17.07.2019 | Osaka University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-ever visualizations of electrical gating effects on electronic structure

Scientists have visualised the electronic structure in a microelectronic device for the first time, opening up opportunities for finely-tuned high performance electronic devices.

Physicists from the University of Warwick and the University of Washington have developed a technique to measure the energy and momentum of electrons in...

Im Focus: Megakaryocytes act as „bouncers“ restraining cell migration in the bone marrow

Scientists at the University Würzburg and University Hospital of Würzburg found that megakaryocytes act as “bouncers” and thus modulate bone marrow niche properties and cell migration dynamics. The study was published in July in the Journal “Haematologica”.

Hematopoiesis is the process of forming blood cells, which occurs predominantly in the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces all types of blood cells: red...

Im Focus: Artificial neural network resolves puzzles from condensed matter physics: Which is the perfect quantum theory?

For some phenomena in quantum many-body physics several competing theories exist. But which of them describes a quantum phenomenon best? A team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Harvard University in the United States has now successfully deployed artificial neural networks for image analysis of quantum systems.

Is that a dog or a cat? Such a classification is a prime example of machine learning: artificial neural networks can be trained to analyze images by looking...

Im Focus: Extremely hard yet metallically conductive: Bayreuth researchers develop novel material with high-tech prospects

An international research group led by scientists from the University of Bayreuth has produced a previously unknown material: Rhenium nitride pernitride. Thanks to combining properties that were previously considered incompatible, it looks set to become highly attractive for technological applications. Indeed, it is a super-hard metallic conductor that can withstand extremely high pressures like a diamond. A process now developed in Bayreuth opens up the possibility of producing rhenium nitride pernitride and other technologically interesting materials in sufficiently large quantity for their properties characterisation. The new findings are presented in "Nature Communications".

The possibility of finding a compound that was metallically conductive, super-hard, and ultra-incompressible was long considered unlikely in science. It was...

Im Focus: Modelling leads to the optimum size for platinum fuel cell catalysts: Activity of fuel cell catalysts doubled

An interdisciplinary research team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has built platinum nanoparticles for catalysis in fuel cells: The new size-optimized catalysts are twice as good as the best process commercially available today.

Fuel cells may well replace batteries as the power source for electric cars. They consume hydrogen, a gas which could be produced for example using surplus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on UV LED Technologies & Applications – ICULTA 2020 | Call for Abstracts

24.06.2019 | Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Genetic differences between strains of Epstein-Barr virus can alter its activity

18.07.2019 | Health and Medicine

Algae-killing viruses spur nutrient recycling in oceans

18.07.2019 | Life Sciences

Machine learning platform guides pancreatic cyst management in patients

18.07.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>